ABU DHABI EXPO: Royal Jet benefits from Arab Spring diplomancy

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While many in the aviation world were hit by the Arab Spring's disruption of tourism and commerce, Abu Dhabi's Royal Jet believes it was good for business. The Boeing Business Jet specialist benefited from a rise in the number of heads of state and government ministers travelling to summits and international meetings prompted by the chain of uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa, says chief executive Shane O'Hare.

Royal Jet, which formed in 2003 and is the world's biggest operator of BBJs, with six, says it made record profits in 2011 on revenues up almost a third on the previous year. This was helped by a cost-cutting drive, a modest recovery in corporate traffic and strong growth in its medical evacuation business.

Government business has also been "a big growth area", says O'Hare, with more delegations travelling to the Middle East and Africa.

"Although we have been profitable since year two, last year was exceptionally good," he says. After a programme of refurbishments, the company had all six BBJs in operation for much of the year. "We also reorganised our operations and reduced our backroom staff," he says.

Royal Jet displayed its newest BBJ at the show - it took delivery last May. The aircraft is its smallest-capacity BBJ, typically carrying 18 passengers and with two ensuite bedrooms and a study. The company's highest-capacity aircraft is a 53-seat BBJ in three-class configuration, generally used for transporting sports teams, touring rock bands and large delegations.

O'Hare says medevac has been a major success story, growing from 11% to a quarter of its business in five years. Most patients are flown in its medically-configured Bombardier Learjet 60 or Gulfstream G300, but all its BBJs can be converted into flying ambulances. "We are doing a medical flight virtually every day of the week," says O'Hare.